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New Leaders Council


Authored By: Dexter Horne


There’s this coven of young, professional-types, they call themselves “progressives,” and they’re having a gathering in some far part of rural Kentucky you’ve hardly ever heard of. Anyway, you signed up to be a part of this society back in June when you were at the height of your quarter-life crisis (you’ll remember the 7 cups of coffee a day, the overgrown afro you were trying out, and the job applications for jobs you weren’t going to get covering the dinner table…). Well, they accepted you, and the gathering—the first of five actually—is today. Your ride leaves in one hour. Pack light…

This journey was one destined for Paducah, Kentucky with 25 unfamiliar faces. As the 26th strange face, I came into the New Leaders Council with no ideas for what to expect. And, as I quipped in my little opening monologue, the decision to join this group was one made in the height of crisis. Leading up to this weekend I had been struggling to find my place in society as a young adult. All I had was my story and a desire to do more therein. The beautiful thing about this weekend was that the Life Entrepreneurship module pushed me to realize that this was more than enough. In our first round with the NLC, 26 strangers were given the opportunity to tell their stories to an open and curious audience. And, in the little time we had to sit with each other’s truths, we became a cohort of 26 supportive and mission-driven friends.

Which is good, because before this module, I wasn’t sure if I would be considered “progressive” enough for this progressive boot-camp. In my 24 years, I’ve only dragged myself to one political rally…and mainly went because a girl I liked invited me to go with her. In a speech that I gave to my fraternity one time I called myself a liberal “tree-hugger” but that’s not even true! My car, Prince, leaks gasoline when I got to fill it up (and oil whenever it wants to), so I can’t say I’m a very good steward of the Earth either. I’ve done community service before but can’t say I’ve ever made a drastic difference for the wellbeing of any person (except myself). And, I don’t like Saturday Night Live all that much. So, if being progressive was any of those stereotypical things then I had failed the test twice-over.

Or so I thought. But, in hearing the incredible stories, ambitions, and accomplishments of the strangers I just ran away from home with, I’ve determined that being a “progressive” means so much more than what the word sometimes implies. Progressivism, I now know, is the action we performed this weekend: learning from one another, loving one another, and empowering people who we formerly thought of as strangers in our world. To be progressive is to be this way not just at NLC “boot-camp,” but back home where life is comfortable and even in the midst of personal difficulty or crisis. That’s a lesson that I didn’t know I needed so badly at this stage in my life, and now, all I want is to be progressive. I’m very fortunate to have found my place in this community.   

So, a million thanks to you NLC, to our lovely Life Entrepreneurship trainers Zebulon Beilke-McCallum and Jewel Anderson, to our institute organizers Jamie and John, and to the 25 brilliant members of my cohort who have made this weekend life changing. It’s not every day that I willingly leave the stoop of my Lexington apartment and allow complete strangers to take me four hours away from the city. But, I’ve recently learned, that when I do take such uncomfortable leaps of faith, there is sometimes reality-shaking grace to be found at the end of the journey.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next.


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Iron Sharpens Iron

Authored By: Ashley R. Oliver

Aubrey Drake Graham once prosed, “all I ever needed was the squad, so that’s what’s up.” Those words have rang true in my life for the past year - I’ve been a new kid in a new city and I’ve been deeply seeking a crew, a set, a squad, the homies - MY homies, rather. And exactly a year to the day that I moved to Kentucky, (the exact day! God is so real!) ....I found them.

I am deeply exhausted and still completely invigorated by the weekend that just unfolded. I spent the past two days with two dozen strangers and we were intentional, thoughtful, and vulnerable with each other. We all shared a common thread - progressivism - and came together to do participate in what Dexter Horne eloquently phrased, “liberal boot camp.” 😂

And while we talked politics a bit, we talked about ourselves more. After hours of dialogue and 384 cups of sweet tea, I now know that I am in the most remarkable company of 25 brilliant people who trusted me, trusted us, with the story of their lives. We snapped together, shared bites of massive desserts, had sing a longs while cruising the P-Town streets, epically failed in a snowball fight, cried a lot, laughed a lot more, and loved on each other the most. We are the largest NLC chapter in the country and I can’t imagine our cohort without six of us - thank you to our board for insisting on a vision for our class before we could even see it for ourselves. When I first learned there was 26 of us, the geek in me thought of the atomic number of iron, which is 26 and the only thing I remember from chemistry class. In the book of Proverbs, “it says as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the other” - I think we were divinely orchestrated to sharpen each other, and I take that task and that honor very seriously and with much reverence.

I’m battling a lot internally right now - fighting for clarity, peace of mind, stability, love, acceptance - and I shared that with these people, bracing for impact that never came. They didn’t turn from me - they are rooting for me and willing to fight with me...and that feeling is indescribably comforting, that feeling quells a quaking I’ve endured for awhile. And for the 25 of them, I’ve never felt so quickly invested in the goals of people I had never met. I’m all in for all y’all.

Sometimes what’s understood can’t be explained - I feel like this is one of those times, but I just wanted to attempt to convey how grateful I am to be tethered to these brilliant, beautiful people. Thank you to the city of Paducah for being a backdrop to a life changing weekend, thank you to John andJamie for the tireless work you put into our experience (and for the cheesy potatoes), thank you to all of the New Leaders Council - Kentucky board for your support, thank you to Jewel Anderson and Zebulon Beilke-McCallumfor your amazing candor and kindness - I don’t know if we could’ve had better LE trainers (*snaps in approval*), and thank you to New Leaders Council for the vision - the Commonwealth of Kentucky is officially in good hands 😉. To my fellow fellows, thank you for being your most authentic selves, I can’t wait to build something beautiful with y’all. 💙💚 #nlcky#nlcfamily

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A Story of Access: NLC Kentucky’s Leadership Training

 After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. -Nelson Mandela

Authored by: Emily LaDouceur

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